Warrant issuers, keep your offering statement evergreen

An increasing number of issuers have been using Regulation A to make continuous offerings of units, consisting of a combination of equity, often common stock, and warrants to purchase the same equity at a future date. Under the Securities Act, the units, the shares of stock, the warrants and the shares of stock issuable upon exercise of the warrants are separate securities whose offer and sale must be registered on a registration statement or covered by an exemption from registration such as Regulation A. That is why offering statements under Regulation A list each of these individually and why the SEC requires the validity opinion filed as an exhibit to the offering statement to cover all of them (See Staff Legal Bulletin No. 19, available at https://www.sec.gov/interps/legal/cfslb19.htm ).

Most warrants that are part of these structures are exercisable for more than a year after their date of issuance, often up to 18 months. Since the exercise of the warrant and payment of the exercise price for the underlying shares is a new investment decision by the warrant holder, the offering statement covering the underlying warrant shares must continue to be qualified under Regulation A in order for the new shares to be covered by the exemption from registration. That means that an issuer must keep the offering statement “evergreen,” or qualified for at least 2 to 3 years to cover those exercises, even if the offering of the units is completed before the first anniversary of qualification. Most Regulation A offerings permit rolling closings. The effective date of a warrant is typically the date on which a closing is held and a warrant is issued to an investor. For example, if an issuer commences a Regulation A offering on the date its offering statement is qualified (let’s say February 1, 2021) and holds its first closing of units on March 1, the warrants issued in that closing are exercisable until September 1, 2022, well past the anniversary of qualification. Assuming the offering stays open for at least 9 months and the final closing is held on November 1, 2021, the warrants issued in that final closing are exercisable until May 1, 2023.

Under the securities laws, registration statements for continuous offerings are kept updated, or “evergreen,” when an issuer complies with its reporting obligations under the Exchange Act by filing timely periodic reports such as their annual report on Form 10-K, quarterly reports on Form 10-Q and current reports on Form 8-K. However, since the analogous periodic reports under Regulation A are filed under the Securities Act, their filing does not keep the offering statement evergreen. If an offering is to extend more than one year from qualification, issuers conducting continuous offerings need to file post qualification amendments (“PQA”) in accordance with Rule 252(f)(i) every 12 months after the qualification date to update the offering statement, which includes incorporating the financial statements from the periodic reports filed during the previous 12 months. If the original offering statement was scheduled to terminate before the warrant exercise period ended, the PQA would also need to extend the termination date. A PQA in those circumstances renders the offering statement un-qualified and subject to a possible new SEC review, which means an issuer may continue to make offers (so long as the financials are not stale yet) but may not make sales, such as the issuance of warrant shares upon exercise of warrants, until the SEC re-qualifies the offering statement (See our blog post on updating continuous offerings: https://www.crowdcheck.com/blog/updating-continuous-offerings-under-regulation). Using our example above, the issuer of units would need to at a minimum file a PQA in sufficient time before February 1, 2022 to allow for a possible Staff review and comment period to meet the annual requirement under Rule 252. Moreover, if the unit offering lasts more than 6 months after the original qualification date, an issuer should anticipate having to file a second PQA in early 2023 to cover the exercise of warrants issued in the last closing of the offering.

Warrant issuers should also keep in mind some additional steps they will need to take. The subscription agreement and the warrants themselves will need to include additional reps, warranties and covenants, such as a covenant to keep the offering statement evergreen. Plus, even after qualifying the PQA with the SEC, the issuer will need to insure that it is current with state notice filings, which typically need to be renewed every 12 months as well.

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